Telsiai (Telz), Lithuania

Project Name Translation of “Sefer Telz (Lita); matsevet zikaron le-kehila kedosha” (Book of Telz (Lithuania); memorial epitaph of the Holy community)

Project Leader
Hap Ponedel

JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis:

This project is being initiated in order to translate the Memorial Book of the community of Telsiai, or Telz Lithuania, published in Israel in 1984. The book contains 505 pages of Hebrew and Yiddish testimony about life in this northwestern Lithuanian town. It was edited by Yitzhak Alperovitz, Tel Aviv, Telz Society, Israel.

Project description

Jews had resided in the town since the beginning of the 17th century. Shortly after the third Partition of Poland (1795) the town fell under the rule of Tsarist Russia. In the year 1800 the Jewish population of Telz was 1,650 out of a total population of 2,500 or approximately 66%. By 1870 the Jewish population had grown to 4,400 or about 68% of the total. Just before the turn of the century the population of Jews had dropped to 51% as emigration was well under way. Jews there had suffered blood libels, epidemics of cholera, famine and poverty not to mention discriminatory laws of the Tsarist regime. By 1880 the Telz Yeshiva had been built and by 1889 had nearly 400 students and achieved great renown.

Several dozen individuals have contributed their recollections to these pages making it a potentially rich and varied volume on life in this once thriving Jewish community.

The Project coordinator will direct a fundraising effort for the translation and secure the services of the professional translators. The Project Coordinator will select the order in which to translate the text of the book, will work closely with the translators to ensure a grammatically correct and accurate translation, perform proofreading, editing, and preparation of the work for submission to the Yizkor Book Project. The resulting translations will be posted, as they are completed, on the Yizkor Book Translations site at

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots in Telsiai constitute the primary audience for the material. However, the material has the potential to be of broader appeal to scholars interested in Jewish History and culture in this region. Researchers looking for information onTelsiai (Telz), Lithuania will find valuable information here, as will historians and Holocaust researchers.

Project Importance

Yizkor books occupy a unique place among sources on Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. While autobiographies give us lengthy accounts on life in a limited number of communities, the Yizkor books give us personal details and recollections from several hundred communities across the entire region of Eastern Europe. Stories relate memories of daily life, individuals, religious leaders, social and political movements, acts of courage and extreme violence. They offer us the opportunity to remember not just the terror of the shoah but the positive qualities of Jewish life that was wiped out so tragically and completely.

As these books are typically written in Hebrew of Yiddish, they are not accessible to the general public nor most Jewish viewers. Their translation opens up a world otherwise unaccessible to those who want to know what life was like in the Jewish towns. As a people, Jews are instructed to remember but there must be information for remembering to take place. These translations offer a wealth of information to make remembering possible.

Currently there are several sources with historical information on Jews in Telsiai on the internet, some of which was used to draft this proposal. There is also a Telsiai District Research group via the LitvakSIG website. Most of these sources do not contain the personal information that the Yizkor book text will provide.

Estimated Cost

The estimated cost of the translation of the entire Telz Yizkor Book is in the range of $15,000. The fact that the book is broken up into chapters consisting of separate recollections offers us the possibility of fundraising for many small pieces. The memories of each individual can cost $50-100 in some cases and thus provide us with snippets that are essentially complete. Certain parts of the book may appeal to a given contributor and thus make a small contribution attractive and worthwhile.


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Updated 4 May 2014 by LA